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Home Sweet Home
|Melling stopped the final-day bleeding with a strong victory to put Europe on the hill.
"Remember Brookline" was the rally cry for the American supporters hoping for a miracle comeback, invoking the setting for golf's 1999 Ryder Cup. In that event's final day, with a total of 12 singles matches, the American side won eight and tied another to complete an amazing comeback.
Knowing his side needed to win five of six singles matches, Team USA skipper CJ Wiley front-loaded his lineup, putting Hatch, Archer and Van Boening up first, hoping Shuff and Dechaine could finish off the comeback.
European captain Johan Ruijsink countered with a more balanced approach. He sent out rookie Ekonomopolous first, then stacked Feijen, Appleton and Melling behind him, with van den Berg as the anchor.
If the competition had been tied at 10-10 at that point, the captains would have then picked one player to play a Cup-deciding set. (While the match was unnecessary, it was later revealed that the match would have been Appleton-Van Boening.)
Hatch opened the day with a difficult 5-3 win over Ekonomopoulos. The big man from Buffalo, who is never shy in engaging the boisterous crowd, looked shaky throughout the set. But he was given enough opportunities to get the point for Team USA, pulling within two of the Europeans.
The next two sets went according to plan for the Americans. Facing Feijen, Archer put a marvelous finishing touch on a remarkable performance for the 44-year-old Hall of Famer. With a deathly stare that rarely left the table, he thumped Feijen, 5-1, to take his sixth point in six matches.
Van Boening then atoned for being shutout the previous day against Appleton. The American was in complete control of the rematch, pulling ahead to a 4-1 lead. On his way through the sixth rack, he got a bit out of shape on the 3 ball. Unable to pocket it directly, Van Boening kicked into it, which then drilled the 9 ball to the far short rail and back down into the corner pocket for a ridiculous kick-combo-bank that knotted the Mosconi Cup, 9-9.
It was a dream start for the Americans. The heavy-hitters performed, leaving 25-year-old Dechaine and 29-year-old Shuff to ride the momentum to victory - at least that was the plan.
In his Mosconi Cup debut, Shuff looked overwhelmed at times, but seemed to settle into the environment in his later matches. But on the final day, his biggest problem would be out of his control. Melling, who topped Shuff the previous night in singles play, came out on fire in the 19th match of the competition.
With some dizzying shot-making, Melling jumped out to a 4-2 lead that went a long way to reestablishing Europe's shaken confidence. Shuff responded in the next rack with a tight safety on the 6 ball, but Melling, with the cue ball just inches from the rail, kicked at the 6 ball that was a diamond from the opposite corner pocket. The cue ball not only knocked the 6 straight into the hole, it then caught the side pocket point to bounce out for perfect shape on the 7. Three shots later and Europe was on the hill.
"I knew I've got to get a point here," he said. "It takes the heat of [van den Berg] a bit."
But there was still plenty of fire in York Hall. Enough that the still-ecstatic crowd seemed to rattle both Dechaine and van den Berg in the next set. While the American seemed a bit more at odds with his game, the Dutchman struggled to get his points. But the tide seemed to have turned for the Europeans, and van den Berg eventually dropped the 9 - by rattling it in the corner pocket - to clinch Europe's third straight Mosconi Cup.
For Melling, who was named MVP, the two early hill-hill losses in doubles play were mere memories after three strong singles victories, the first gave Europe its first lead and the last game his team the lead for good.
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